LG G4 Camera vs DSLR – Sensor & Lens

May 7, 2015

LG G4 and DSLR camera side by side

The LG G4 has one of the most impressive cameras I’ve seen to date. One of its best features is full manual control over the exposure, Raw capture mode and a f/1.8 maximum aperture lens. Check my LG G4 camera preview to see its full specs. One might ask why anyone would consider buying an interchangeable lens camera (DSLR or mirrorless) when you have an amazing camera with fully manual control like the LG G4’s? In this article I’ll talk about the differences related to teh sensor and lens of the LG G4, In later articles I’ll talk about the other cons and pros.

Optical Zoom & Interchangeable Lenses

As of this time, mobile phone cameras are in no way near replacing DSLR or mirrorless cameras. One of the key reasons is that most of the mobile phone cameras have a fixed focal length lens (1x zoom, “prime lens”). Some cameras do have an optical zoom lens, but are not interchangeable. There are some snap-on lenses for mobile phones, but those are not of the same quality is the leading lens manufacturer lenses. They are a cheaper alternative and are suitable for those who want to shoot in a different field of view that the camera has to offer. Those snap-on lenses might not even be compatible with a new phone model, there isn’t any standard mount, they just attach to the phone.

We cannot ignore the variety of lenses available for ILC cameras, which include ultra wide-angle lenses, super telephoto lenses, super-fast prime lenses, 1:1 macro lenses, etc. I would have been pretty cool if Apple came up with a iMount and a range of interchangeable lenses, but I can’t see that coming anytime soon.  With some lenses you also get a built-in lens-shift optical image stabilization mechanism and manual controls (e.g. smooth rotation of a ring to manual focus). You can also attach various type of screw-on and attachment filters that widen your creative options when shooting outdoors. Some of those lenses are weather-sealed and with a weather-sealed camera, you can go out shooting in the rain or in freezing temperatures.

The LG G4 has a 4.42mm f/1.8 aperture lens with 3-axis optical sensor-shift image stabilization. You can’t change lenses, and you can only shoot in a single field of view that the lens provides. The f/1.8 is fast and will help you capture better photos under restricting lighting conditions. Because it’s a prime lens, you can expect it to perform great optically, but it is versatile enough.

Sensor & Pixel Size

The sensor size is one of the main reasons why experienced photographers choose a DSLR or mirrorless cameras for critical work.  The sensor size and pixel size have a a great impact on the dynamic range, color reproduction, per-pixel sharpness, high ISO performance and depth of field.

There is a wide variety of sensor and lens combinations. The LG G4 features a 16MP 1/2.6-inch (5.08 x 3.81 mm) Back-illuminated CMOS sensor. This is a very small sensor compared to a conventional DSLR sensor. Even the most basic DSLR camera has a significantly larger sensor, mostly use APS-C.

1/2.6-inch vs APSC-C sensor size comparison

1/2.6-inch vs APSC-C sensor size comparison

As you can see in the above image, the Nikon D3300 sensor is significantly larger than the LG G4 sensor. The LG G4 has 1.12µm size pixels, whether the 3.92µm pixels. This a big difference that impacts the overall performance of the camera. The D3300 will offer much better image quality and high ISO performance almost across all the important parameters. The LG G4 uses a Back-illuminated technology that approx. doubles the sensitivity of an equivalent of a FSI sensor. This allows the LG G4 camera to perform well in low-light, but it can match the performance of a FSI CMOS sensor with much larger pixels.

The sensor size and the lens also affect the depth of field and the blurring effect that photographers like to use quite often. A shallow depth-of-field effect allows you to create better separation between your subject and its surrounding.  The DOF is measured using the aperture of the lens, focal length of the lens and the distance of the sensor from the subject.

So let’s consider that we have a DSLR camera and the LG G4 camera positioned in the same distance from the subject (1 meter), and both used the same f/1.8 lens. The only variable left here is the focal length. If we use a lens with the same equivalent 28mm focal length, the actual focal length of the LG G4 lens would be much smaller because it has a smaller sensor. The lens has to be much closer to the sensor to achieve the same equivalent field of view (~75.4°). Therefore the depth of field would be much longer. In other words, the f/1.8 lens on the LG G4 would be equivalent to a 1.8 * 6 = f/10.8 if it’s a 6 crop factor. I don’t know the exact size of the sensor, but it’s closer to that number. that being said the exposure is the same on both cameras at f/1.8 aperture.

So if you want to achieve very shallow depth of field effect, DSLR or mirrorless is the way to go. With the LG G4, you’ll have to be very close to the subject to achieve the same degree of effect. This is why most of the defocused backgrounds you see in mobile phone cameras are macro shots. Just so you know, there are apps that mimic this effect in a higher degree by capturing two photos with the focus on different areas, and then merging them.


To to some things up, DSLR cameras offer better image quality across the board, including better high ISO performance, better color reproduction, image details and higher dynamic range on most part. You have the ability to choose from a variety of special lenses, each one with its unique field of view, aperture and features. You also can achieve a much more prominent shallow depth of field effect than you can with the LG G4 camera. In the next guides I will talk about other features, including camera handling, AF system, light metering sensor, shooting modes, accessories and so on – so stay tuned!

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